Amnesty International (AI) yesterday accused Britain, the US and India of facilitating human-rights abuses in Nepal by selling the country weapons used against civilians in the nine-year Maoist revolt.
The international rights watchdog said there was "overwhelming evidence" that military assistance from these countries and others had "been used for the killing and abduction of civilians by both sides in the conflict."
"With the conflict poised to escalate, any further military assistance would be highly irresponsible," said Purna Sen, director of AI's Asia-Pacific program, in a statement.
"Arms should not be exported as long as there is a clear risk that they might be used to commit serious human rights abuse. As has already been demonstrated, civilians will be those who suffer most," Sen said.
More than 11,000 people have been killed in the Maoist insurgency launched in 1996 to install a communist republic in the world's only Hindu kingdom.
King Gyanendra sacked the government and assumed absolute power in February after accusing politicians of failing to stem the rebellion.
His hand-picked government warned it would launch massive operations against the rebels, who are present in all 75 districts of the mountainous country.
AI said that India had exported 25,000 5.56mm infantry rifles to Nepal "despite evidence of their use in grave human rights violations."
India had also supplied Lancer helicopter gunships, produced under license from French company Eurocopter, which the army had used to attack mass meetings called by the Maoists, "often resulting in the killing of civilians," it said.
India, Nepal's biggest arms supplier, suspended military aid to the kingdom after King Gyanendra's Feb. 1 takeover, but has said the resumption of arms supplies was under "constant review."
The US had supplied Nepal with 20,000 M16 automatic assault rifles and US$29 million in military funding since 2001, AI said.
It accused Britain of sending a number of shipments of small arms as well as 6,780 assault rifles in contravention of the 1998 EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.
Belgium was selling machine guns and South Africa had sent military communications equipment, the London-based group said.
Britain, India and the US had also trained members of the Nepalese security forces without vetting them for suspected human-rights abuses, it said.
The watchdog called for the suspension of all arms supplies and military assistance to Nepal "until the government takes clear steps to halt human rights violations and bring those responsible to justice."
It demanded the government of Nepal end arbitrary arrests, clarify the fate of people who had "disappeared" and institute independent investigations into all allegations of human-rights violations.
Both sides in the drawn-out conflict have been accused of serious abuses.
In March the New York-based Human Rights Watch said the kingdom's security forces are "one of the worlds worst perpetrators of enforced disappearances."
In April the UN Human Rights Commission strongly condemned repeated killings, rape, forced displacements and mass abductions by the rebels.